Five years ago Kris Meeke put little old Northern Ireland on the world rallying map. The then 35-year-old had dominated Rally Argentina in his Citroen DS3 aided by his Irish co-driver Paul Nagle.
It was the start of a special few years for the pair, collecting five event wins in the World Rally Championship with the French manufacturer.
Difficulties followed for both Meeke and Citroen with the latter’s withdrawal from the WRC inadvertently ending Meeke’s time in the championship despite the fact he was driving for Toyota in 2019.
As I reflected on Meeke’s decision to step away from the sport I gained a new sense of respect for the United Kingdom’s third most successful world rally driver.
When his contemporaries threw money into the pot, as well as the life commitment that comes with rallying across the globe, Meeke recognised he had already added his tuppence worth to the championship over the last decade.
His time was up in the WRC but it was time to explore what else life had to offer.
In the face of such a challenge, it is easy to be led by tunnel vision. A fixed end-goal with no other alternative. One must remember that an opportunity lost is another opportunity gained.
In a motorsport era when competitors all to often put themselves at the behest of their employers, Meeke’s strength to not only understand but also defend what his services were worth is an example many would do well to follow.
It was the end of a special period for Meeke’s fans back home. His five WRC wins were peaks in what was a true rollercoaster ride.
That Rally Finland victory was perhaps the highest point of them all. It’s certainly the Mount Everest achievement for any foreign visitor to Finland’s gravel highways. Meeke remains the only Briton to conquer the 1000 Lakes.
Colin McRae’s apprentice had us on the edge of our seats every step of the way. The what-ifs will always run around in the back of our heads but when it’s all said and done – it was an incredible journey.
Remembering those years between 2014 and 2019, Meeke left more than a mark on the World Rally Championship. His defiant character has left a gaping hole that will take more than just a capable world rally winner to replace.
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Photo by Jaanus Ree / Red Bull Content Pool